Photographer changed by Haiti's Restaveks
November 23rd, 2011
07:29 PM ET

Photographer changed by Haiti's Restaveks

Steven Taylor is a 24-year-old music and celebrity photographer. In the past two years, Steven has photographed Common, John Mayer, Snoop Dogg, Pharrell, Bruno Mars, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, John Legend and more.

He recently accompanied Common and the CNN Freedom Project on a trip to Haiti during filming of the documentary "Common Dreams." His work can be viewed at

Why did you decide to travel with CNN and Common?

I've never been to a place like Haiti, so initially it was an experience I couldn't pass up. My work tends to shelter me from the negative reality of the world since I'm generally hired to accentuate a more glamorous lifestyle.

It was an exceptionally eye-opening trip given the obvious state of crisis Haiti is in, but also because of the contrast of people I experienced it all with.

Common is someone I work with back home, so having him there raised an awareness of how our day-to-day lives are so different from the Haitians' right now. That heightened awareness will continue to affect my life and keep me grounded, which made this trip a crucial step in my career.

Read more about what Common saw in Haiti

What were your initial thoughts when you arrived in Haiti?

Getting off the plane, about 10 men were insistent on carrying my bags in hopes of being tipped. They would do anything for a couple dollars.

The most shocking moment was when I saw a group of children shaking a fence, begging for food and money. I had never seen such desperation before. These sights stick with you. I knew I wouldn't leave the same.

You're known for your work with celebrities, particularly musicians, how did this experience differ?

It actually didn't differ much at all. I want my clients, whomever they may be, to leave with the truest photos they've ever seen of themselves. I want to capture the soul of the subject. The only real difference or challenge was the language barrier.

What was your favorite photograph from the trip? Why?

I took a photo of a man standing in rubble, wearing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey. He had one leg, one crutch, and was holding the hand of a half-naked child.

I'm from Tampa, Florida, so seeing this man in a familiar jersey just hit home. It made me realize how much I take for granted. I'll ever forget what that photo taught me.

There are a number of photographs of people in this gallery, especially children. What struck you about the people you met in Haiti?

The children in particular inspired me. In the midst of devastation, they still made the most of their situation. They goofed around with me when I pointed the camera in their direction.

They played games with rocks and dirty water bottles, and almost all of them were smiling and laughing. They had so much character and strength because of how hard their everyday lives are, and it was inspiring to see. The children definitely became my focus.

View a hi-res version of his images

What was your favorite experience of the trip?

One of the nights we all went to a bar in town and heard one of the local bands play. It was so refreshing to see the positive side of the Haitian culture. I was blown away by their liveliness given the hand they've been dealt. It was an inspiring experience.

soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. Becky

    I like your programs Piers, but I wish you can give your guests more time to respond to the questions.

    November 23, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  2. Patrick

    This is a great story! Our organization also deals with the Restavec in Haiti. Please check us out at

    November 24, 2011 at 10:54 am | Reply
  3. bernard loriot

    Very touching story that I have been aware of for 30 years. My wife his a restavek and we have been living togheter since 29 years. I had the chance to make a lot of researchs and wrote a nice book call "Mlle Café" that never was publish. The editors told me that no one would be interested. I did'nt wrote it for money, simply to help their cause. To bad, it is in french and I do not have the money for the traduction. If someone his interested, contact me...

    Bernard Loriot autor

    November 24, 2011 at 11:31 am | Reply
    • Patrick

      I think you would be surprised to see how many people such a book would interest. I would definitely be willing to help you find a way to get this book translated into English to appeal to a larger populace. There must be an organization out there willing to help for a good cause.

      November 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  4. Samanda Vasquez

    We were touched by this story.

    November 25, 2011 at 1:02 am | Reply
  5. BC

    CNN needs to join the fight with finding Americans jobs an impeach Obama. Stop with all the distractions

    November 25, 2011 at 8:51 am | Reply
    • Patrick

      CNN has plenty of projects that deal with the American economy and politics. Quite frankly, projects such as these, however, have a much higher value in the eyes of moral individuals. For the very least it's not a distraction...

      November 25, 2011 at 9:04 am | Reply
      • BC

        Why..becacuse you say so? What joke!! You have no morals. Most Libtards like you just want to hear stories that make them feel good. America is in a crises you tool...keep drinking the koolaid troll

        November 25, 2011 at 9:21 am |
    • KEKE


      November 27, 2011 at 11:13 am | Reply
      • midwest

        You could not have said it any clearer. People stop blaming your current President for the ills of this county. It took a decade to create the mess we are currently living.

        December 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • MJ

      How old are you? Are you even finished with your education? Learn english. THEN people might listen to your opinion...if it's justified.

      November 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Reply
    • STUSA

      BC....PLEASE, stick your head in the rear of your republican party leader. Maybe, just maybe you can clear your head.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:43 am | Reply
    • STUSA

      BC...I see you are in love with the President; He seem to be your only focus in life. The topic can be about football and you will still find a way to speak ill of the President. Get a life you hater!

      December 14, 2011 at 8:45 am | Reply
  6. Joe

    Can we get some Moderation Here? This conversation BC started should not be happening here. The people here are dedicated to these types of issues.

    November 25, 2011 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • BC should dedicate your sorry a$$ to help finding Americans jobs. Then we can talk about how good unicorns & rainbows make us feel.

      November 25, 2011 at 9:44 am | Reply
      • JJ

        ...And what are you doing, BC, to help with America's economy? Oh wait, don't answer that, I know. You're sitting at home on your computer telling everyone to change your life for you. Congratulations on officially being one of the laziest people in America. You should feel proud, really. I bet you got paid to go to graduate school because you're so smart! Right? Good, then you really have done everything in your power to help make your life better. So you telling people what's right and wrong is completely justified. Everyone cheer for BC!

        November 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  7. Joe

    As a well educated individual I think that CNN is doing plenty in terms of the political and economical state of the U.S. I think it's VERY disrespectful of you to comment on this page by saying "Stop with all the distractions." Fighting for basic human rights is not a distraction and in fact it's a lifelong mission of many who read the CNN Freedom Project Blog.

    In addition, it's also very disrespectful for you to call people Libtards without knowing anything about them. Again this is just MY opinion, but I believe the issue of global slavery and human trafficking is a much more important issue than finding jobs in America for the proper and moral sustainability of the people on our planet. The bottom line is that it's not just about people, perhaps like you, trying to find a job. There's a bigger picture which people, perhaps like yourself, can't comprehend completely without having experience with these types of issues. I understand that people are frustrated by the state of the economy, however, things are improving. The bottom line is that this is certainly not a distraction.

    November 25, 2011 at 10:15 am | Reply
  8. sherry

    Well said Joe...don't know who BC is but if they are so concerned about finding american's jobs, why don't they get off their a$$ and do something about it.., by reading the first post that BC posted it is very apparent to me that this person has no morals..

    November 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Reply
    • Joe


      November 25, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  9. hope

    Who let the scared people posing as animals out of their cages? Sad state of affairs when they can't find a decent political board to post their rhetoric.

    At any rate, thanks CNN for another great job!

    November 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Reply

      The white feminists were trick in beliving that it will be easy to get rid of ANDRE HIMES ,not knowing about the power of the holy lamb in heaven who has been guarding ANDRE 's life since the day he was born at SHAW AIR FORCE BASE on april 30 1965 and whose angel had place the seal of the living GOD in his forehead on august 12 1993. Under racial profiling many BLACK AMERICANS were arrested and were either martyred within the prison system or were deported to AFRICA and where many of them were martyred there and were buried in mass graves in the SUDAN and in the CONGO. Meanwhile a new demonic black america has arisen from both the black antebellum and hiphop nation and replace the black human population in AMERICA and throughout world. The new demonic black america is base stereotypical images of low class , poverty stricken and criminally prone blacks

      November 28, 2011 at 11:29 am | Reply

    The white feminists were trick in beliving that it will be easy to get rid of ANDRE HIMES. Not knowing about heavenly power who had been guarding his life since he was born at SHAW AIRFORCE BASE on APRIL 30, 1965,and who had place the seal of the living GOD in his forehead on august 12 1993. Under racial profiling many BLACK AMERICANS were arrested and were either martryred((murdered) within the prison system or were deported to AFRICA , where many of them were martyred there and were buried in mass graves in both the SUDAN and in the CONGO. I t was this act as well as the rise of the hiphop nation which had been summon against BLACK AMERICA by the white feminists as well as those whites who have a long history of embracing white supremacy, it was has contribute to the black holocaust in which much of black human population in AMERICA and throughout the world were sacrifice. Mean whilie new demonic BLACK AMERICA has arisen from both the black hiphop and antebellum nationn and is baee on stereotypical images of low class ,poverty stricken criminally prone blacks and has replace the black human population.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:13 am | Reply
  11. Jill Mairn

    Thank you, CNN, for airing Common Dreams. I work with the Restavek Freedom Foundation and we see everyday how thousands of children in Haiti are affected by the restavek system of domestic servitude. We want to create a movement of people in Haiti and around the world who are working to change this human rights issue. Some people say may feel that deeply entrenched issues like restavek are too difficult to change, but we think together we can do something. Thanks again. And if anyone is interested in joining us to take action, please visit or check out some of the great ways to get involved in CNN's Freedom Project.

    November 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  12. SkyKing

    Heart wrenching.
    But it is a problem they brought on themselves.
    Out of control population, resistance by the masses and elders to education that would provide discipline and control.
    Looking from the air, the political boundary between the Haiti side of the island and the Dominican Republic side is stark. Clear cut forest all the way to the border on the Haiti side, with no replanting, no management of forest resources, yet lush and green on the DR side. Port au Prince, an area able to accommodate say 50,000 people is swarmed by 4,000,000 people – 8 times as many as the land could reasonably support! Haitians brought this on themselves. The death toll in the earthquake was a blessing, just woefully short of that necessary to restore Haiti.
    Don't let your heart bleed for them.
    Insist instead on the same accountability and responsibility expected of every other citizen of this planet.

    November 28, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Reply
    • philomen

      Stop talking about what you don't know. Haitians have never resisted education. To the contrary, they send their children to live in the city for the specifically to be educated. Although some are exploited, most of those children do receive proper education.
      Haiti's population is not out of control. The overpopulation in the capital is due to rural migration because of trade policies that left farmers unable to compete with subsidized American good. The area you are talking about is larger than NY city. The reason it can't accommodate it's present population is due to a lack of infrastructure. Furthermore, the environmental degradation in Haiti is due uniquely to poverty: people rely on charcoal for cooking because very few have access to electricity or natural gas.

      How can you claim to be heart-wrenched when you had no heart to begin with?

      November 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Reply
  13. dada

    Haiti has been long EXPLOITED by French and American colonization for their own selfish cause. Unless the real intention is good no UN mission can do good for this country.

    If there is a will things can be sorted in less time. Do you agree ?

    December 19, 2011 at 6:10 am | Reply
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